“We want to offer something to everybody” says Nick Hodgskin, assistant director of housing for Hanover in East London. And the wide-range of wellbeing choices on offer certainly fits the bill.
With programs ranging from armchair Olympics to side-by-side cycling, karaoke to picnics, the initiatives range across 30 estates and reach 900 homes in the London borough of Hackney.
Hanover has developed partnerships with a number of social enterprises and health charities to deliver a wide range of wellbeing initiatives.
“We want to provide our residents with choices on how they want to improve their wellbeing,” enthuses Nick.
“One of the things that comes up again and again when we talk about the importance of older people’s housing in supporting wellbeing is that helping people to keep active and engaged links directly to reducing premature admission to residential and nursing care.
“And we’ve just received our first results which prove the positive impact they are having.”
Using MYMOP – or measure yourself medical output profile, the association is able to deliver alternative therapies and prove conclusively the benefits to its residents.
“MYMOP works by residents completing a survey before their first session, listing each of the conditions they want to improve, and give a rating on a scale of one to seven of their current state of health.
“When they finish the program they give a score at the end. The final scores showed significant improvements along with a general wellbeing increase.”
REDUCING SOCIAL ISOLATION
But it’s not just residents who are seeing a benefit – children from a pre-school group are also in on the party.
“We’ve set up a monthly indoor picnic with a local nursery group. Both residents and children bring in food. It’s proved extremely popular both with the school and residents,” says Nick.
Children love hearing stories, and the residents have plenty of them. Many residents may not have grandchildren, and ones that do may not see them regularly.
Both generations have time to spare for fun, learning and entertainment. Confidence levels for both generations can increase, residents become more active and children’s language skills improve.
With social isolation amongst the elderly a growing problem, alongside the high cost of childcare, it makes more than financial sense to fuse the two together.
For those of a more sporting demeanor, there’s always the ‘ride by side’ cycle. The bicycle made for two is funded by Hackney council in collaboration with Cycle Training Ltd.
Accompanied by a trained rider, the cycles are electric assisted and residents can choose whether or not to pedal. With a large basket in between the cyclists, residents can even use the summertime transport to do their shopping!
Then there’s armchair Olympics. Using Olympic legacy money, residents have enjoyed an eight-week program of joint-loosening bends and stretches, all while remaining seated.
Kathleen Doyley, 76, is a willing participant, saying: “The armchair olympics helps your muscles to move around, strengthens your back and it helps your breathing too.”
Residents are queuing up (in more ways than one) in a number of communal lounges after taking delivery of donated pool tables.
The regular evening events have become a hit amongst tenants, and there’s even a summer pool tournament between estates. Among the fun, this initiative has gone as far as saving one resident’s life.
One evening the residents noticed one of the group hadn’t come out of his room at his usual time. When his neighbours checked on him, they found he had suffered a stroke.
Sydney Dias, a sprightly 89-year-old explains: “When we knocked on his door nobody answered, which we found funny. Somebody went round the back, through the window and found him laying on the floor. He would usually come out at 6-7 o’clock and sit in the same place.
“If we hadn’t found him that early he wouldn’t be here today. We feel happy about saving someone’s life.”
The wider community has also felt a positive impact. The National Citizen Service (NCS) – an intergenerational service for young people aged 15-17 – brings young and old together for the benefit of both.
NCS supervises a set of challenges in which young people join an older resident to learn life skills such as social integration and community collaboration.
So far the groups have put on a production of ‘Cinderella Gone Wrong’, taught residents how to use and enhance digital photography, introduced them to social media and held a BBQ. At the end of the programme the young person receives a citizenship award.
A local hospice is offering a befriending service to offer support to carers.
Trained volunteers at St Joseph’s Hospice offer companionship, practical and emotional support to anyone with a long-term or terminal illness, or who is frail or isolated from the community.
Elizabeth Gavua, who is primary carer for her husband, Freddy, says she found the service “very, very helpful.”
She explains: “We were referred to the service and they came round to assess him so they could match him with someone appropriate.
“They match you with someone who has the same interests. They may just watch the news or a video, whatever my husband was prepared to do. He was compassionate and respectful and showed us dignity. If my husband didn’t want to engage, he just sat quietly beside him.”
The bespoke service matches people with similar interests and hobbies.
“They talk about things like football and tennis – things that I am not able to discuss with him so he has other things to think and talk about.
“If this service didn’t exist he would just have to depend on me. The carers don’t have as much time to do this,” she says.
Asked how the service made her feel, Elizabeth concludes: “I felt relief. I don’t go out, but during that hour I could. If I want to work in the kitchen I know there is someone there engaging with my husband so he’s not bored. I know he’s in good hands.”